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Tyke of Pipes
Act 5: Tyke of the Orphan Pipes
© 2023 James LaFond
Ascent, Caesarsday, Second Day of Sepulcher
Motherless-the-Bun they had named him. For he had no known mother, unlike the majority of the Mob Pipes, who were to the lad and man distinguished by the anonymity, and becoming acquainted with their characters, one might suspect the studied scarcity, of their fathers. He had arrived among them holding but a sandwich bun, one of the long ones that was able to accommodate strips of bacon, and when left on the steam pipes with sliced cheese betwixt, made a lusty supper.
The Mob Pipes dwelt in the long west to east alleys, joined by short, north to south Horseshoe Alley, that connected Knight’s Street with Bell Station. At the far end of their realm, before the Gate of Pipes, barred these past 8 years since the Plebe-Mob Street War [1], yawned the Well of Bawdy Sprites. These were the mothers of the Mob of Pipes. These well and set up dames were acrobatic performers of the low stage and circus tent, set up in the round of an old nunnery walled off to be damned by the Church to punish the nuns within for having intercourse and founding out children to the Mob Pipes.
These pious old dames faded and were tenderly pulled down from their 12 windows above the paved Well where nuns once had sung holy hymns and ushered off to hospitals for the poor. The acrobatics among the nation of whores saw an opportunity. While a rake of the patricians, a boss of the plebes, a centurian or the like must need gain entrance to the Well by paying the Lictors of Bell Station. [2]
So there, at the base of that sultry well, as the acrobats of desire recline and pose from their modest three-staved, ashwood balcony railings, the paramour woos his harlot as they bid for his affections, fan their painted faces in false modesty and even sing some in imitation of that race of nuns who had come before.
This had become quite the show at the expense of certain base morons. So the well-to-do bring foot men who hold a black screen before the gate. Even this is not sacred. Jude of Mirrors, a carnival alchemist, said to have escaped a cruel Moorish captivity in France, sets up an array to this day and charges for the view to those who would look into the receiver of his chain of spying mirrors.
Despite his mere age of Eight, Tyke, sir named The Tyke of Pipes as their very Moses, not found in a basket run down the river, but rather with a bun toddling down the sewer, knew the history of his tiny nation like The Pope Knew the Bible. Trent Pipe, their Mob Boss kept Tyke ever with him as a sent lookout, confidant, messenger and the like. Trent was by far their eldest, a Gent of Pipes one might say, figured by the Bawds, their motherly kin, as nearer to 22 than 21 years. The older of the bawdy hens, the Witchy Three, forever argued over which of them gave birth to that storied Pipe.
Lore of Pipes
Thus contained well and understood in the mind of Tyke of Pipes.
In Days of Yore, before the coming of steam power, some sixty years or three lives agone, a certain gang of waifish half-orphans, put out by their mothers for the sin of departure by their fathers, took, as a trade, to the fifes. Organizing themselves in small bands of fifers, and on saint days in a great troop, and then scattering to the various alleys and hideyholes, bridge casements and forgotten basements to avoid service and transportation, [3] these fellows earned a tiny bit of fame.
When war called, those up and over 12 years would present themselves to the sergeants of the muster and find themselves for piping in the Legions or aboard decks in the Navy. For this ready service, the little time keepers of battle, the pace setters of march, where forgiven by Caesar’s men for the likelihood that their very pipes had been made of stolen and sawed pipe, usually copper, sometimes of rich folks’ sink or bed stave brass, and that half and again of their nutriment had been thieved from better mouths.
Then came the steam engines, the steam whistles, the machinery noise-makers to put the fifers out of business in much of the Navy—and for a certain the better portion—and losing their boyish tasks of piping the work hour, the lunch hour and the end of work for gangs of workmen. Now, the factory whistle did this, had run them out of work like so much beer turned to piss.
In a fit of rebellion, Sweat the Pipe, Boss of the Bell Station Pipes, set his best fifers to joke the industrialists, and in small groups, from big to tiny, imitated the factory whistles with the use of increasingly large and even iron pipes. This jest caused confusion among workers and overseers, lost money for the uppity ups, and brought the brute intentions of strike breakers, iron police, slave catchers and train conductors against the Fife Tykes, now called the Mob Pipes, for they fifed through iron now, the better to brain a constable for interrupting their song.
Conductors, overseers, police and lad-nabbers all converged on any Pipe caught in the open to such slogans as “trains on time” and “no fake breaktime!” The battle was hard fought and one sided.
Eventually the Pipes barricaded themselves in the two long slots [Knight and Bell Alleys] and one short slot [Horseshoe Alley] between Knight Street and Bell Station. In an irony of spite the official bullies gated each end of that narrow nation, stuck as they were between the Iron Furnace to the north on Bridge Street and the Steam Works to the south fronting on Light Street. The super-heated air venting from the roaring pipes at the back of the iron works mixed with the sweat from the hissing and knocking pipes out the back of the Steam Works that piped its dragon’s money breath to power the summer fans and the winter radiators of the rich in their fifth floor apartments…
Betwixt Fumes and Steam, between Heaven and Hell as they imagined, dwelt the Mob Pipes, apartments built of scrounged pallet scaffolds, songs and fight provided by brass, copper and iron pipes. This mob were the gallant protectors of the Bawdy Sprites, who they might avenge by scrambling out of their vertical warren by night and taking to the roof tops as if in weird flight.
The Bawdy Sprites, likewise, being the mothers of many of them, used their influence with their powerful and daring paramours to sustain the orphan gang and eventually to place out older members in some service or another. Former Pipes were renown fine spies, footmen, agents of industrial sabotage, and as hit men.
Gate of Knights
“Tyke, Tyke bring ye peepers back out our gloried past and ye head out yer second-story ass!”
“Yes, Boss,” answered he, blinking himself out of his reverie, “what a wonder this is we see! Lookie, Japs wee sketching that mug o’ swords and letting loose doves to soar. Why?”
Check, from where they stood behind the flat iron steam grate fence, upon their spy pallet, his hair greasy red and his pale finger long, agile and strong, stabbed that singular digit as if it were an arrow that could fly and take life at the burly form of gladiatorial arrogance down four stories and across Knight Street.
“Tyke, that ain’t no Knight—with what we got truce rite. Dat is a Scot, clear as can be seen, limping still aswagger with his Irish Knocking Blackthorn rod! Dat Burly bastard even gets ta wear ‘is blasted helmet about in honor of slaughterin’ our homeward kin in wayback Ulster, Dublin en Belfast!”
Tyke looked and saw one of the two awesome and taciturn—never speaking they—armored knights who stood at the base of the stairs of House Equis, Chapterhouse New York. One of these well fed beasts handed a helmet he had been holding for this visitor while whatever business was conducted within.
“What of it, Check? An uppity up o’ the arena, a longtime boss o’ sword it seems by his medals.”
Hissed Check, “Just galls me is all, what his did ‘over our ancestors en how he en his near here helped do to us in the Plebe Mob War. Them blackthorns were beatin’ down Pipes the very year ‘fore you was born.”
‘As if I were born to mere bear witness to sorrow,’ mused Tyke, “too thoughtful by a yard song” it was well known.
He piped up as a Pipe should, “Why are all those wee Japs following him and sketching—look, one just got run down by a steam car!”
Check was aghast, as ever over injustice to children, “Look ye, Tyke, his mates but take his notes and leave him lie. They spies of some Jap boss, the doves like messenger pigeons, I bet. With da steam presses a clackin’ prattle high en low, news be gettin’ ta be a big grift.”
“What do we do?” wondered Tyke.
A firm hand came to his shoulder, “Nuffin’, so long as ‘e observes the Sanctity of Pipes.” [4]
The great, limping figure of gladiatorial wars, looking a glare at the sketching Japs, strode directly for the Knight Gate below them, chained against the Lictors, pad-locked with a mechanism indeed gifted by the Knights, grabbed the chains, snarled a horrid snarl, and snapped those iron chains between hands that must have been equal to that of a circus ape!
“Oh no he didn’t!” exclaimed Check.
“Boss!” yelled Tim Pipe below as the gates clanged in against the factory and furnace pipes.
“Go roust the whores—this be bad, Tyke,” whispered Check in a hurry, then to yell, “Pipes—breach Knight! Breach Knight!”
A clangor of pipes sounded all around, wee fifes piping as well as the steam pipes knocked and the distant train whistled. Tyke having utterly disregarded his orders, hefted his pointy pipe and looked up at Check, who seemed to have forgotten his own command as he growled, “Its all-in!”
-1. All 12 factions of Plebes, each taking for their colors the habit of one of the Houses Munera, had waged a six day war against the 60 Mobs, these being reduced to 40 Mobs by the time the Lictors and Praetorians interceded on behalf of the criminal Mobs. After all, the Plebes were an aspirational threat to the patricians and the mobs the partners of the rich in many a greasy grift. Not only did the numbers of the Plebes save any faction from extermination, but the refuge their presbyrs, matrons and barristers were granted by the gladiatorial houses in their monastic fortress homes. This had left some gall in the hearts of Mobsters concerning certain Houses of the Sword.
-2. So known for having the greatest and loudest bell of all of New York’s train stations, so large that hundreds of bats take their rest within between rings.
-3. Being put to service as a foot boy or transported off to toil on the frontier, upon a patrician farm or in some godforsaken colony oversees.
-4. A non aggression truce between the House Equis and the Mob Pipes, that did provide for spy work and paid access through the alley in order to more quickly access the congested platform at Bell Station. Occasional Pipes were educated by the Chaplain of Knights and forwarded out of their misery to some useful trade, making their alumni and overall fraternity an extensive and formidable lateral society.
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